The Sins of Ego
Ego is such a bitch; an insidious little bugger that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I have battled this monster repeatedly over the years and by now, almost fifty-seven years into this life, I thought I had it beaten. I know the difference in ego and self-esteem. I know what is healthy and what is not. I know humility is important but can be just as destructive as an inflated ego. After all that time polishing the ego lesson stone, I really thought I was in the homestretch. Apparently not. Ego waited, then struck hard.
Ego in early 2018
This year has beaten the crap out of me and I have complained and whined about it incessantly on social media and in this blog and will likely continue to do so. Verbosity and petulance are NOT the vices I was called on to improve in these raucous months, thank you very much, so verbose and petulant for the win and ego for the challenge.
This was the year I found out that people I dearly loved were not at all who I thought they were and instead were the people everyone else insisted they were. I didn’t listen; I defended. I waited to be proven wrong. Spoiler: I was proven wrong. My ego about being a good judge of people took some hits, let me tell you.
I found out I have a pain-in-the-ass disease that jacks with my balance and makes my ears ring nonstop. It saps my energy and it limits my mobility due to vertigo that happens if I move outside of a certain range. My ego over being robustly healthy took a beating.
My husband’s business folded and our income was cut down by around 75% and I had to seriously pick up the pace on the products and services I offer well before my own business was prepared to carry that kind of weight. My ego over never having money problems again hit the ground.
I had to face the fact that I could not do a quality job on the Llewellyn book on which I had a hard deadline and also get the next Seven Sisters of Avalon book out on time, or even six months late, so Lily of Avalon got back-burnered. My ego over being a “prolific writer” was pummeled.
A very promising and potentially lucrative business I was starting with a friend fizzled and has apparently died a quiet death without even a whimper or a moan… just a silent death. My ego over being able to market what I do died just as quietly.
My friend George found a ton of errors, typos, etc, in the Seven Sisters of Avalon books already in publication, so I had to stop everything and fix those. That was after the books had been through no fewer than three editors/proofreaders. When I get the books back from my proofreaders, I do not check them because I have long since stopped actually seeing any of the words by the time I finish writing the books. My ego over my fantastic series of novels took a temporary dive.
Those are just the highlights. So… much… more… agh… But c’mon, I’m still standing!
Ego and the July midterm
I looked forward to the General Hospital Fan Club Weekend (GHFCW) all year long. Last year, I went with Eric for the first time (I have always gone alone or with Delena in the past) and we had a great time. I knew that this would be my last year to attend and I was sad about that but happy to get to go at all. Letting go of this part of my life was a hard choice to make, but we cannot hold onto the past forever or we rob ourselves of opportunities. This page has needed to turn for a while and with the 55th anniversary of General Hospital promising a wonderful array of events, I felt I could work this year and then step away. It has been a long haul, longer for some of us on the staff, but for me, it has been since 2001.
I work the actors’ lines to make sure every fan gets their photos and autographs, which also means I make sure whatever actor I have gets their booze or food or whatever they want and that their line closes out and they are free to leave when they choose. I am the Fan Club’s webmaster and I also work as a kind of guest liaison throughout the year fielding email questions about the GHFCW, among other virtual assisting jobs I do for the president. I also work with other staff members to set up the events and to check fans into the individual events. Each August, I publish the General Hospital Fan Club Yearbook with photos and stories from the GHFCW.
This event is a four day weekend where General Hospital fans can mingle with their favorite actors and enjoy the company of other fans. We all have friends that we only see once a year at the GHFCW and now I go more for the people than for the actors. I never get starstruck. Never. Ever. The actors are just people to me and truthfully, a good many of them are not very kind people.
The last time I got really starstruck was a few years ago when Jonathan Frakes (Commander William Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation) showed up to pick up his wife, Genie Francis (Laura Spencer on General Hospital). It was a colliding of the worlds and of the fandoms for me and even though he was only there for a short time and technically, not even at our event, I did get my photo (right or above, depending on your device). That is a story on its own and one that I have told way too many times.
This year, I had it bad. I was nearly breathless and – true confessions time – actually lost some sleep over information that came my way about a week before the event. I learned that Nathan Fillion was confirmed for the One Life to Live Past Cast event we were hosting on Friday night.
Ohhhhhhh Lordy. My gootness. My. Oh. My.
I emailed our volunteer coordinator and the subject line of the email was “Begging Time.” I usually do not care what actor I am assigned to and will work wherever I am needed. This time I cared. A lot. I would have given our volunteer coordinator anything she wanted to assign his line to me.
My husband and kids watched “Firefly” together in its entirety… twice. Aiden, my grandson, and I watch “Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I watched “Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog.” Delena and I watched “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” together. People, brace yourselves. I own “Slither” on DVD. I have posted internet memes of this guy. I have a shirt with his image on it that says “Captain Tightpants.”
I sat on this valuable information for a week, sworn to secrecy and knowing he was going to be there, confident that if I could not be assigned to his line, I could at least take a quick break, flash my All Access Pass, and step in for a quick photo. I would at least get the photo.
Ego and Friday night
Friday night arrived, as did the actors and… no Nathan Fillion. It was disappointing, but life moves on. It was too much to hope for anyway because he is a pretty big star now in several fandoms and as they say, the show must go on. Lots of people paid a ton of money for a good night with former One Life to Live stars and I was determined to shore up my heartbreak and make it happen. I was assigned to James and Kassie DePaiva. She is from very close to my hometown in Kentucky and I told her this when I introduced myself. She was not particularly interested in this fact and they were both what I would call Typical Overall Ostentatiously Soap Actor Distant. I kind of hoped the hometown thing might warm her up a bit, but hey, that’s how it goes. Very occasionally, an actor is warm, kind, and loving to us as staff and we get to see the mask drop. More often, they treat us as a functional and unfortunate necessity to the event. The DePaivas were not unpleasant at all, but yeah, I was furniture and I am used to that.
Past Cast events are my favorite and they have a very different vibe than the events we have with the actors currently on the show. Current cast members are not required to attend the Fan Club events, but they are strongly encouraged by the studio to do so. I have watched characters and careers made and broken based solely on how the actors interact with the fans. Most actors are VERY affectionate and loving and gracious to the fans. The fans believe it is because the actors loooooovvvvve them, but it is because actors are trained to pretend they feel something they do not feel. They are likely acting more at these events than they ever do in front of a camera. There are those few, sure, who are genuinely cool… but only a handful. Most are predictably Typical Overall Ostentatiously Soap Actor Distant (TOO SAD).
The Past Cast actors, however, are there because they actively choose to be and usually they come to reunite with former cast members they never see, so they are mostly there for their own interests, but in a different way from the current cast. Since most soap actors do not go on to be crazy famous, they get really excited when people remember and cheer for them… and everyone does.
The DePaivas are very popular and the line was long the entire night with people waiting an hour or two to meet them and get an autograph and photo. They are very interactive, so each person took maybe 2-3 minutes and when you have 50-60 people in line, that adds up fast. It is up to us, the line managers, to make sure the line moves so the actor does not have to be the hardass. Ultimately, whatever the actor wants, the actor gets. My back was barking from standing for so long and I was eating Motrin like Pez.
About a third of the way through the event, a huge cheer went up and son-of-a-gun! Nathan Fillion was there… and I was trapped in a line. Hope did not spring eternal. It leaped like a happy little Jack Russell terrier. I kept trying to see where he was stationed and lost sight of him in the crowds. I texted Eric, “He’s here.” I have a professional photographer who works the events for me and she was also on high alert. “Come here now, please,” I texted her between taking photos for guests.
Then, Lord have mercy, the man walked directly to my table to see the DePaivas and knelt down right in front of me, talking to them for probably 10 minutes of the 20 minutes or so total that he was at the event. During that time, I had Eric on one side of him waiting and my photographer right beside me while I made the guests in my line wait as the three actors had their conversation. Ten minutes is a lifetime in one of these lines, but I kept things stable, assuaging the guests with comments like, “But you get to look at Nathan Fillion. Look, everyone, it’s Nathan Fillion!”
I got the attention of the security guard escorting him and mouthed to him all intense-like, “Ron, please, I have to get this photo. Please…please.”
Nathan Fillion turned to go and I said directly to him, “Excuse me, can I please have a photo? Please?” The DePaivas motioned me forward and he just turned and left. “Mr. Fillion,” I called after him, loudly and strong, “One photo, please.” He walked away from me and my broken heart.
I watched him go and took a breath. Then two. My eyes stung. Gone. That close and just…gone. After all the photos over seventeen years that I made sure our guests got, mine got away. He was on two lists for me (“was” being the operative word): my bucket list, right between “go back to England” (done) and “publish a book with a mainstream publisher” (done) and The List of freebies within my monogamous relationship. For the bucket list, it was just a photo.
I pulled myself together and started the line moving again. Kassie said she had been taping all day and was exhausted and needed to leave at a particular time. The long line finished three minutes before her deadline and our event staff descended to get their photos with the DePaivas. My eyes stung again as they got their photos that they wanted. The DePaivas turned and left. I am used to actors not smiling, not saying, “Thank you,” but just walking away with the security staff that will take them to their cars in the parking garage …and that is what they did.
Bing, bing, bing… my Facebook lit up with guests and staff members posting their photos with Nathan Fillion… including the staff members who had not one clue who he was when I mentioned him earlier in the night. “OMG!!!!!!! NATHAN FILLION IS HERE!!!” …yeah… he sure was.
This is my photo of Nathan Fillion and represents the full extent of my interaction with him (you can click to enlarge if you want), along with Eric’s message to me afterward when I was still stuck in line and unable to follow Nathan Fillion, grab onto his legs, and let him drag me weeping across the hotel carpet as he sic’d security on me:
Poor Eric knew I was devastated and had no idea how to comfort me. To him, Nathan Fillion is just a guy, but like the good husband he is, he hurt on my behalf. I got the look that told me he would gladly kick some Fillion ass if I said the word (or would at least give it some heroic effort). My champion. Bruised and defeated, I limped my dying ego back to the hotel room and pouted fiercely.
Ego and Saturday
Saturday was our Main Cast Luncheon and the primary event of the weekend. I did not really care whose line I got because there are around forty stars and for the most part, one is the same as another.
I forgot about William deVry.
The Main Cast Luncheon is so important that we have a huge meeting of all the line managers and escorts just before the event so we do not inadvertently screw up something vital. That is where we get our actor assignments.
I got William deVry.
Why does it matter? Because in 2003, I was two years into running Eye on Soaps, one of the top four websites covering ABC soaps. William deVry was just getting started on All My Children as Michael Cambias and he was unreasonably and viciously mean to me over a photo I posted of him that I had full permission from ABC studios to use. There was no, “Hey, I really don’t care for that picture, can you use this one instead?” Oh no. He went OFF on me.
After he aggressively chewed my ass, I assured him that I would remove the offending post and photo and that he would never have another SYLLABLE of coverage on my website. Eye on Soaps thrived until the cancellation of All My Children in 2013 and for those ten years, we never once mentioned William deVry. My writers did not even refer to his character by name. They called him, “the rapist” or “Bianca’s rapist.”
In all the years he has been on General Hospital as Julian, he was a bullet I managed to dodge at the GHFCW for so long I forgot about him. For that matter, I am sure does not likely even remember his interaction with me. Hell, he likely did not remember it after he hit “send” on the email all those years ago.
When the actor assignments were read and I got William deVry, I was stunned and I am ashamed to say I was expressive in my dismay, still stinging from the previous night’s overt dogging by my former favorite actor. Our volunteer coordinator was mortified that I was upset. I was mortified that I caused her any moment of distress because this woman works herself crazy even before the stress of dealing with my neuroses, which are insignificant in the big picture. The fact does not escape me that my neuroses are insignificant in the little picture.
I turned it around quickly and took back my empowerment, stating aloud some affirmations that I will not repeat here but the escorts and line managers will probably recall for quite some time. Basically, it was a “suck it up, buttercup” approach and I did.
The day went well and William deVry was pleasant enough in that TOO SAD way. He left early, so I got off work at 2:30 pm instead of 3:00 pm. Mostly, the day passed without incident and I learned the lesson that it is stupid and petty to stay angry with someone because they were awful to you fifteen years before when they do not (likely) even remember being awful to you.
OK, Universe… I hear you.
Ego and the curtain call
Throughout 2018, I have had quite a curtain call of people who have hurt my feelings deeply in the past, who hurt me to the point that it changed who I am, come back into my life, usually just long enough that I am forced by circumstance to spend time with them and find an accord. I’m OK with that, especially when that lesson is juxtaposed against a situation where someone (Nathan Fillion) who I adored from afar, who I had always heard was great with fans, and who I held in tremendous esteem as an actor and a human, fell so far from grace in the matter of a moment.
Encountering undeniable evidence that I really do not know people who I really think I know has been an ongoing theme for me this year and, as hard and painful as it is, I am grateful for it. The ego factor that tells me that I am right about my impressions of people is up against the evidence that says I have more to learn.
The Nathan Fillion thing, of course, was not really about the actor. It triggered feelings I thought were long dead. Those feelings are about not belonging, not being important, not being a real part of anyone’s team, and of being pushed aside. It is about not being cool enough to be in the cool kids club. It is every time I was overlooked and disqualified because I am fat. It is every time people thought I was stupid because I have a Southern accent.
Ego came calling and triggered all of this. So what if I was not important enough to a man (who had no clue who I was) that he would stop what he was doing and take thirty seconds of his time to cross himself off my bucket list? Why did it matter? Because it really was about every time I was not chosen for dodgeball in middle school.
I hate that stupid “wounded child” story, but it definitely came out for me this time.
I am over it now and far enough away from it that I can see it all objectively and work with it to learn more and become more and know more and blah blah blah. It was a rough month and July is pretty much is the icon of the folder on my mental desktop for 2018. I am still standing tall in that “thank you, sir, and may I have another?” kind of way. It builds character! It makes us better people!! Meanwhile, it stings and it sucks.
Thankfully, on Sunday, the Universe decided I could rest from all of the lesson-learning and I got to spend it taking care of Gregory Zarian and Dylan Cash, my buddies. I reconnected with my friend, Blake Gibbons, and visited with Graham Shiels who I took care of years ago when he was on Night Shift. He even remembered my name. (Hey, I was important enough!) Eric and I ended the LA experiences with a wonderful dinner at our favorite steakhouse, Damon’s, then headed home…thankfully, blessedly home.
When my grandson came over for his weekly Wednesday visit, his first words were, “Did you get that photo with Jacques Snicket?”
Now, I have to burn my Captain Tightpants shirt. I can also hook you up with a copy of “Slither.”